New Kid on the Block
It was early summer between eighth and ninth grades. I was the new kid on the block. One morning I was sitting on the front steps of our house. Two kids came up to me and introduced themselves, then sat down with me. Mary and her younger brother Gary lived across the street and three doors up, in the large, nicely-kept, three-story house that had been converted into apartments. In front was a wide set of steps where neighborhood kids gathered during afternoons and evenings.
Mary was also going into freshman year in high school. She filled me in on everything she felt I needed to know about the neighborhood. They had to go on an errand for their mom to the neighborhood grocery store on the corner of the next block over. They started off, but then, Mary turned back and invited me to join them on their front steps. I smiled, nodded, and said, "Thanks!". Then she said, "You *have* to meet Rosemarie". Gary echoed, "Yeah; you *have* to meet Rosemarie". I looked from one to the other, wondering why I *had* to; then, I nodded to Mary.
After dinner that evening, I was on those front steps. Mary introduced me around. As darkness fell, I looked at my watch. It was just before nine. I decided to call it a day, and said good-bye. I was halfway to my house when Mary called to me. I turned, and she was running towards me with another girl. As they grew nearer and stopped in front of me, Mary said, "This is Rosemarie Delano. You *have* to meet her." In the darkness, it was hard to see clearly; but once my eyes focused, I looked at Rosemarie, and I froze.
I had an overwhelming feeling that I should get away; yet somehow, I managed to get through the introductions. Mary said Rosemarie lived up the street, in the corner house, and she described the small two-story, red bungalow. Then I said had to get in, motioning my head toward my house, and said good-bye. They turned to go back to the steps, and I ran to my house.
In my room, I sat down on my bed and tried to figure out what caused my aversion towards Rosemarie. She wasn't scary-looking, or anything like that. She was about a head taller than Mary and I; but that couldn't have been the cause. I didn't know why, but I felt I should avoid Rosemarie and whoever she would be with at any given time. After a while, I gave up trying to figure it out, and threw myself backwards on the bed, with a big, long sigh, and decided, starting the next day, that I would hang out at the Brown's house, immediately behind our house. My parents knew the family; and Jimmy Brown was my age and fun to be with.
Gary Fills Me In
On Saturday, a few days after the Rosemarie encounter, I was sitting on my front steps. Gary came over and sat down. After about a minute he said, "Rosemarie wants to have a lot of friends." I thought, well, there's nothing wrong with that; so, maybe I can shake off whatever's come over me and be her friend. Then he said, "You know why?" I was surprised by the question and asked, "Why?".
He lowered his voice and said, "All of her friends, except Mary, stopped being friends with her last month when her father was sent to prison." I gasped, "Prison?!", a little too loudly, then covered my mouth with my hand, and asked, in a whisper, "What for?". He said, "For bookkeeping", and as I sat there in stunned silence he said that the second floor in their house can't be used by them because that's where her dad had been running his business.
I thought, holy smoke!, and he added, "Mrs. Delano never worked; so Rosemarie's older brother, Freddy, who's nineteen, works two jobs so that they have enough money." A wave of sorrow came over me for them and, strangely, it felt as if I was suddenly drenched in cold water. It made me shudder with a chill. Then I thought, Yeah, well, sure. Criminal activity is usually very lucrative; until you get caught. He said, "Don't say anything." I said, "I won't. My lips are sealed." At that moment, my mom came to the front door. Lunch was ready. Gary and I got up, said our good-byes, and I went into the house. That was the last time I had a conversation with any of the kids on my block about Rosemarie.
Rosemarie's AssumptionThe week after Gary filled me in, I was leaving the grocery store alone. I spotted Rosemarie standing on the corner across the busy intersection with some girls I hadn't met. She saw me and called out my name, hollering insults and threats. I was shocked and thought, "What the heck is this?!"; but I turned away, and continued going around the corner towards home. The only thing I could figure is, Gary must have told her that he told me; and since I wasn't a "fast friend", she thought it was because he rdad was in prison. But, my aversion towards her hit me before Gary had filled me in.
When I got home, I told my mom what Rosemarie did. She asked me what I did to provoke her. I was surprised at her reaction and said, "I didn't do anything!" She said, "Ignore her." There was no point in telling my dad because he'd say, as always, "What did your mother say?"
The next time Rosemarie did it, I was in front of the Brown's house with Jimmy one afternoon, sitting on their porch steps. Rosemarie was walking down their side of the street with two of the girls she had been with on that corner. When she passed in front of us, she did the same thing as the first time. Mrs. Brown stepped out of the house and onto the porch just after Rosemarie and her friends were past us and had stopped hollering. Mrs. Brown asked, "Who was yelling?" Jimmy asked me, "Who's that girl?"
I told them the story. Jimmy said he had never seen her before, and it looked like she was looking for me. I had to agree, but didn't say that. Jimmy and his mom said that there was something wrong with the picture. I agreed, and said so. Mrs. Brown asked me if my mom knew, and I told her what my mom said. Mrs. Brown said, "Tell her it happened again."
When I returned home for dinner, I told my mom. She said I must have provoked her. I said I didn't, and she could ask Jimmy. She said, "Ignore her." The next day I was with Karen, a girl who lived on Jimmy's block, and we were with Jimmy on his porch. Mrs. Brown came out and asked me if I had told my mom. I told her my mom said to ignore her. She said, "I called your mom last night. She did say that you told her, and said she would take care of it."
Two Years of HarassmentMy mom never took care of it; and for nearly two years, Rosemarie harassed me. Toward the end of those two years, she began approaching me, and pushing me into poles and trees, even when I was with one of my friends. I never told Mrs. Brown again, since it made no difference. But, I told my mom each time it happened. She always said, right up front, that I was provoking her. I said I wasn't, and she could ask my friends. She told me that when I saw Rosemarie on the same side of the street, I was to cross to the other side, and ignore her. From that day forward, I did that; but Rosemarie crossed the street as well, and pushed me into poles, or trees, or stone walls, while she hollered insults and threats at me.
One day, when I was walking with Karen, Rosemarie did it again, and I suddenly realized that I had had enough. I told her she had better stop it or, "Mark my words," I said, "I will not be responsible for anything I might do." Then, amid more of her hollering, Karen and I turned away and continued walking.
Karen asked me what I meant when I told Rosemarie I wouldn't be responsible next time for what might happen. I said, I didn't know, because I was never in the position I was in before then; and so, I didn't know what might happen. Karen said she didn't understand why my mom did nothing. I said, "Neither do I", and added, after nearly two years of it, and with no adult willing to stop it, I was on the verge of exploding; or, at least, that's how it felt. When we arrived at Karen's house, I said good-bye and cut through the backyards to get home. It was five-thirty, and my mom was home from work. But, I figured there was no point in telling her anymore. So, I didn't.
Rosemarie Didn't Mark My WordsAbout two weeks later, I was walking with Karen, and Rosemarie crossed to our side of the street, and started her usual verbal assault. I suggested to Karen that we cross the street again. We were walking on that side for about 30 seconds when, suddenly, an arm was around my neck, choking me and yanking me backward. The next thing I remember, I was holding Rosemarie down on the sidewalk, in a headlock, punching her face, again and again, and telling her again and again, "I told you to stop it!"
As I became aware of all this, I thought, "What am I doing?!" I instantly slowed down on the punching, but didn't let go. Then I felt someone's hands on my shoulders, and a male voice said, "That's enough now. You can let her go. She shouldn't be bothering you again."
I was so relieved, I went limp. The man helped me up. It was the man I noticed in his yard across the street just before Rosemarie's attack from behind. I felt like a wet wash cloth as I started walking toward home again. Karen joined me amid Rosemarie's insults and threats, "I'm calling the cops on you!", she hollered, "And my house is closer than yours, so they're going to believe me, and not you." I said, loud enough and without turning around, "Go ahead. There are eyewitnesses to what you just did." Karen and I could still hear her hollering at me halfway home.
Karen asked me what I was going to do. I told her I was telling my mom, and if she doesn't call and report what happened, I would. And that's what I told my mom. She decided she'd better call and report what happened. Rosemarie got into trouble with the police; but I don't know what it was. I didn't follow those events.
Suddenly Drenched in Cold WaterAbout a month later, my brother and two of his friends came home, soaking wet. He told our mom he and his friends were walking home, and when they got to the high bushes behind the chain-link fence of the Delano house, they were suddenly hit with cold water. Amid the chaos caused to them, Mrs. Delano stepped out from behind her bushes and started screaming obscenities at them. She mentioned my name in the middle of her maledictions, and continued using her garden hose on them.
They sprinted across the street to get away from her. She continued screaming at them. One of my brother's friends hollered over her, telling her he was going to fill out an assault report. She stopped screaming and said, "You can't do that. I didn't assault you." He said, "You deliberately hit us with water from your garden hose and that's considered assault." When they finished telling my mom, she didn't utter a word about them provoking Mrs. Delano.
The hearing came before a municipal judge. He wanted Rosemarie and me in attendance, as well. He held up the reports on Rosemarie's harassment of me. Then he asked about what happened with Mrs. Delano, and one of my brother's friends told him. Mrs. Delano immediately started in. She said, "They were making noise and bothering me." The judge stopped her, and asked my brother's friend what happened to them. He told the judge. The judge asked my mom what she had to say. She told him they came into the house soaking wet the evening of the assault, and they were badly shaken.
The judge looked at Mrs. Delano and told her that it appeared to him that she had sought vengeance for her daughter's consequences, and had taken revenge out on my brother and his friends. Mrs. Delano interrupted him and repeated that they had been bothering her. The judge told her that was no excuse to assault them; there's never a reason for assault, and if she said one more thing, he would hold her in contempt of court. She whined back, "But they were bothering me", and the judge cut her off, told her she was charged with contempt of court, and had her removed from the courtroom.
All This, Too, Came to an EndLetting my mom know much about what went on in my teenage life came to an end. In the meantime, Gary told me what the judge decided regarding Mrs.Delano. She was ordered to take a psychiatric evaluation, and it was discovered that she needed what we now call 'anger management'. In the days that followed the hearing, I mused over the entire picture, and it wasn't hard to realized why Rosemarie was also full of anger. The saying about the apple not falling far from the tree held true in this matter. For the remaining years we lived in our house, no one in our family was bothered by the Delano's, ever again.
Tina Irene WilliamsFrom ©WilliamsScript, the author's private collection of writings
Copyright © Tina Irene Williams 2014 All Rights Reserved.
No part of this document may be reproduced without Tina Irene Williams' written consent.